It was a disappointing afternoon for England rugby fans on Saturday, as they watched their side lose 15-16 to New Zealand at Twickenham.
Eddie Jones’ men came close to their second victory in the Under Armour Autumn series, when ex – Gloucester flanker Sam Underhill scored a try in the corner with five minutes remaining in the match.
However, the try was ruled out due to Courtney Lawes’ offside charge-down in the build-up.
The decision sparked controversy from pundits and fans, however, the replay showed that referee Jerome Garces had made the correct call.
After an unconvincing performance last weekend against South Africa, England looked to make a big impact when the World Champions came to visit.
They applied pressure early on after tries from returning winger, Chris Ashton and skipper Dylan Hartley helped England race to a 15-0 lead.
However, the All-Black’s responded well before half-time. A try from Damien Mackenzie and a penalty from Beauden Barrett left the score at 15-10 at the break.
It was Barrett who put the visitors in front in the second-half courtesy of a drop goal and another penalty.
However, with five minutes to go, Sam Underhill sent England fans into jubilation.
The University of Bath student showed just how agile he was when he touched down for what he thought would be the try that won the game.
After anticipating Lawes’ charge-down, the 22-year-old burst towards the try-line with great speed.
The ex-Gloucester and Ospreys man impressively wrong-footed New Zealand full-back and reigning World Player of the Year, Beauden Barrett, who failed to recover in time, allowing Underhill to slide in at the corner.
But with Lawes being deemed as offside, the game ended in a win for Steve Hanson’s side.
Underhill – Under pressure?
After such a great performance on Saturday, fans will expect the number 7 jersey to be worn regularly by the Ohio born man.
However, after making more tackles than anyone in the game, people may start to wonder whether Underhill has any other skills under his belt.
One area where Underhill may look to improve is in his turnover averages.
Fellow flanker Tom Curry who is currently out injured averaged 3 turnovers a game last season with Sale.
Being a great tackler is a great skill to have in the game, but as a flanker, part of the job is to be the first to the ruck, jackalling the tackled player.
Former England international, Jeremy Guscott had this to say on BBC Online:
“Turnovers are the really valuable currency for an open-side flanker. Those, together with minimising errors and penalties against you, are the way to deny the opposition a chance of momentum and strangle the life out of the contest.
Too often he is the man on the floor, rather than next on the scene, jackalling over the top to slow up and steal opposition ball or secure his team’s own.”
However, if Underhill keeps performing like he did on Saturday, I doubt the fans will mind too much about whether he deserves his place or not.
Has Sam Underhill nailed down his place as @EnglandRugby ‘s number 7?
— Park Life Sport (@ParkLife_Sport) November 12, 2018
England will look to bounce back next weekend when they host Japan.